Dr. Pamela Murray, vice chairwoman of the Department of Pediatrics and chief of adolescent medicine at West Virginia University, offers this advice for better health:
1. Get sugar drinks -- and other calorie-dense foods -- out of the house. They are a constant temptation. Such drinks include soda pop, juice drinks, sports drinks and, to some degree, fruit juice. Instead, drink more water and other lower-calorie liquids. Substitute low-fat or skim milk for higher-fat milk.
2. Almost any regular physical activity will help you. It's much better than losing weight with no physical activity. Park a little further from the store. Take the stairs. Find something you like and do it, even 15 minutes a day.
3. Eat breakfast. It should be a non-sugar meal with no sweetened cereals. Try an egg, nuts, oatmeal, or cheese. It'll fill you up and keep you from getting hungry again in a few hours -- and help you think better.
4. Portion control is critical. You can eat anything, as long as the portion is small enough.
5. A little bit of fat is good for you and should be part of a balanced diet. It contains essential vitamins, is a good energy source and helps control hunger between meals.
6. Start with one thing you know that you can do. You can't change everything at once. People need to make small changes every day, not big changes that they can't maintain.
7. Starving yourself sets you up for failure. Your body slows down its metabolism when you don't feed it regularly, and it becomes harder to lose weight.
8. Eat slowly. It takes the body at least 20 minutes to recognize that you have fed it and to feel full. Give your body time to send you the message that you are no longer hungry.
9. Don't smoke.
West Virginia leads the nation in diabetes, heart attacks, and obesity, among others. One in four West Virginia 11-year-olds has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. One in five kindergartners is obese.
As one public health official said, “This is a public health emergency.”
Learn about the problem, meet people who are trying to bring those numbers down, and learn what you can do.
This ongoing project has been created with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
The stories can also be viewed in chronological order at www.theshapewerein.wordpress.com